Good Reading : May 2006
writing life seem strange.We take so much of our lives for granted – health, wealth, long life, iPods. Reading historical fiction can make us startlingly aware of just how much things have changed, as well as how little. This is never more important than when writ- ing historical fiction for children. Unlike adults, who usually come to an historical novel with some knowledge of the period, if not a passionate interest, chil- dren rarely know anything about a particular time. So a writer seeking to engage their interest can do so only with the narrative tool- box: action and suspense, humour and pathos, with a riveting storyline filled with twists and turns and tangles, and characters who can talk across the centuries. At the moment, historical fiction is overtaking fantasy as the most popular for m of narrative published around the world. Series of books based on real history, such as ‘The Royal Diaries’ series by Scholastic, are immensely popular. These books, written for ages 9–12, are told from the point of view of a famous child in history, such as Queen Victoria or Princess Anastasia. The two books by Carolyn Meyer, Mary, Bloody Mary, and Beware, Princess Elizabeth, do the same thing except for a teenage audience. Because these books are told in the first person, they set up an immediate empathy between narrator and reader which makes the well- known – to us – historical events come alive. Tudor times continue o fascinate, with a number of new books for children et in this period, including The Lady Grace Mysteries’, urportedly told by Grace avendish, maid of honour Queen Elizabeth, and ‘The udor Chronicles’ by Terry Deary, the bestselling author f the ‘Horrible Histories’. Written for young adults, hese books are murder mysteries where the young protagonists act as amateur detectives, and are very clever and satisfying reads. Eva Ibbotson’s latest novel, The Star of Kazan, is a compel- ling tale about a foundling girl who is reclaimed by her long- lost mother, only to find herself in deadly peril. Creating the world of turn-of-the-century Vienna with wonder- ful vividness and clarity, this is a story with music, gypsies,Viennese pastries, Lipizzaner stallions, and the rst early rumblings of war. Filled with suspense, t and empathy, books e these are far better than y school lesson in bridg- g the chasm between hildren who think the olden days were when heir parents were kids, and he great, gaudy, bloody pageant of history. This is an edited version of a speech Kate Forsyth made at the ‘Writing History’ Festival at the NSW Writers’ Centre in September 2005. Kate is urrently writing an xciting series of books for ildren set in the last ys of Cromwell’s reign. On Country Fiona Doyle $18.95 • 8+ NN: Family Matters Anthony Eaton $16.95 • 9+ Loku and the Shark Attack Deborah Carlyon $16.95 • 8+ Josh Ivan Southall $19.95 • 12+ ����� ��� ��� ����� ����������������� History is not boring. It’s full of terror and joy, hope and hunger, desperation and danger.